The Dust Bowl And Hobos

The Dust Bowl was caused, in large part, by excessive tillage of the soil. Today, farmers use no till equipment, parts, and techniques to increase crop yields and protect the soil from another potential “dust bowl” catastrophe.

During the Great Depression, millions of unemployed men became “hobos,” homeless vagrants who wandered in search of work.

Once-proud men, the hobos rode the rails or hitchhiked their way across America, in search of jobs and a better life.

Much of this migration took place after the worst years of the Dust Bowl (1931-1935), when millions of acres of farmland became useless after the topsoil was blown off following years of drought, over planting, and severe wind storms.

By some accounts, as many as 2 million men became hobos, often begging for food or work at farmhouses. If a farmer was known to feed or hire hobos, the hobos would mark the lane with a sign that indicated friendliness.

To move from place to place, many hobos jumped into the box cars of moving trains, a practice that often led to death or the loss of limbs. In response to the increasing numbers of hobos, the railways hired guards, known as “bulls.” Bulls were in charge of beating or arresting hobos who boarded the trains without a ticket.

Click here to read more facts about Dust Bowl migration and New Deal programs that were designed to address Dust Bowl conditions.